Opening Our Jewish Tent

I love meeting people. The best part of my job is getting to have coffee or lunch with different people and hearing their stories. Every person has a story. And, when I open myself to truly hearing what they have to say and learning who they are, I become enriched because of it.

Having these one-on-ones has taught me so much. It’s not enough to profess that all people deserve human dignity, we must live it. By being open to receiving every person- Jews and their loved ones- our Jewish family is enhanced and strengthened.

Opening our Jewish tent wider, creating an atmosphere where every person feels valued for who they are and the contributions they bring, allows for mutual respect, creativity, and a safe environment for Jewish exploration, without judgment or expectation.

This reminds me of a beautiful poem by Danny Siegel, entitled The Rebbe’s Proverb:

If you always assume
the person sitting next to you
is the Messiah
waiting for some simple human kindness —
You will soon come to weigh your words
and watch your hands.
And if the person chooses
Not to be revealed
In your time —
It will not matter.

I want to imagine a world where everyone lives this proverb. We would be less concerned with boundaries and definitions of who is a Jew, what constitutes practicing Judaism the “right” way, and who should be included in our community than embracing our extended Jewish family with love and respect, empowering each individual to embark upon their own Jewish journey. When we are more concerned with the risks and perceived negative consequences (e.g. what we may lose by opening our tent), we blind ourselves to the potential for tremendous gains. Valuing every human being who chooses to connect to the Jewish family will strengthen us, creating a more unified community where people feel safe exploring their individual Jewish expression.

There is room for all of us. Let us open our hearts and ears to hear each other’s personal stories. Let us support each other to create a more loving community. And, may we nurture the curiosity and encourage experimentation that will result in people experiencing how Judaism can help them flourish as human beings and find meaning in their lives.

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